The Mandate Letter, by Jason Rogers, focuses on the evolving state of masculinity. Thanks for being here. If you were forwarded this email, get your own:
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Hi Friends! Sorry for the delay. I’ve been locked away working on a new piece for Men’s Health. See below for an excerpt of my new piece about a men’s group where all the guys in the bathtub (yes, you read that right!).You can also click here for the full article! Jason
Typically, I don’t spend my Tuesday nights with a group of naked men. But there I was one late-pandemic evening, chest-deep in steaming, bubbly water, attempting to click on a Join Meeting link without plunging my Macbook into the tub. In just a few moments, I’d be wading deep into the male psyche with nine members of a new kind of discussion forum for guys called Men Who Take Baths.
I first came across the organization on Instagram, where I scrolled through a curated feed of soapy, smiling dudes reclined in porcelain and thought to myself: now, this is something I have to explore. What those glossy images captured was an extensive one-on-one interview series started by Men Who Take Bath’s (female) founder, Nicolle Hodges, back in 2017.
The Canadian journalist, author, and self-described “sexual freedom philosopher” had been talking with a male friend who shared that he secretly loved baths but wouldn’t tell others because it wasn’t “manly.” Soon after, the idea to interview guys naked in the tub came to her with such force that it felt “like a memory of something I had already done.”
Hodges began hand-delivering paper scrolls to exemplary men in her life that asked them to “accept the mission” within 24 hours. Not only did none of them say no, when the time came to strip down, they also leaned in.
The men spoke intelligently about feminism and equality while also opening up about challenging topics — friends committing suicide, heartbreak, calling off a wedding, cheating on a partner, losing a baby, experiencing racism, fighting in the military, struggling with body dysmorphia, the fear of coming out.
Those powerful conversations were posted to her blog but soon led to live events. (Yes, guys took nude baths in front of sold-out audiences). The pandemic, unfortunately, put the brakes on Hodge’s expansion efforts; however, what she realized throughout the interviews was that, while men yearn for community, they generally suck at it. So, she recruited Flynn Skidmore, a 30-year (male) psychotherapist from Brooklyn, to help her figure out how to get the men’s group version of Men Who Take Baths off the ground. (Men’s groups are confidential spaces where they can speak candidly about their lives).
It would be fair to say that I know a thing or two about guys getting together to share their troubles. I’ve sat with ManKind Project men’s groups, delved (skeptically) into male spaces on Clubhouse, and even founded a romance book club for bros.
So, when Hodges and I agreed that I would join the guys for one of their ninety-minute sessions, I was excited by the notion of an aquatic exploration of modern masculinity. But I couldn’t help but wonder: could this simple act of self-care be that effective at washing away male defenses? Would guys open up even more simply because of the bath?
Department of Links
The First Openly Gay NFL Player — Last week, Las Vegas Raiders Defensive Tackle Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. This is a huge step forward for representation in sports. And he donated $100K to the Trevor Project, to boot! — NY Times
Men’s Rights Activists Flee Reddit — Apparently, some of the men's rights subreddits (i.e. the misogyny-oriented, anti-feminist groups) that were previously quarantined on Reddit are now departing for their own platforms. They claim that Reddit has been using passive-aggressive tactics against them, so they've finally had enough. I think this is yet another sign of how a broader culture war is unfolding on the internet. —We Hunted the Mammoth
Lost in Summerland —I’ve previously shared Barrett Swanson’s essay about an Evryman retreat; however, I can't offer enough praise for his recent authorial debut. Swanson has written a book of beautiful essays about everything from men's work to medium training (i.e. psychics). It's a ripping & honest walk through his past and his projections of the future. — Bookshop
10 Years on Testosterone — Thomas Page McBee has written two beautiful memoirs that weave through various facets of the trans experience. This weekend he published an opinion piece that recollects his learnings over the ten years since he began taking testosterone. Notably: “I was not “a man trapped in a woman’s body or any cliché like that,”…I was a man and I was born trans, and I could hold both of those realities without an explanation that could be written on the back of a napkin.” — NY Times
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